Chapter 102 – Squabbles
“MUHAHAHA I AM RICH, RIIIICH!” Tess is grinning like a maniac while letting gold coins rain through her fingers. The black-haired girl is inside a small room, large chests stacked everywhere. A few of the ironbound containers are kicked over, spilling their glittering contents throughout the hidden chamber. Tess rolls around with a foolish grin on her face, dragging her arms through the thick layers of spilt valuables.
“LET ME IN, DON’T HOARD IT TO YOURSELVES!”
“Fuck off, Bord! I am finally truly rich!”
“Rich? It’s not food?”
“No, it’s money! And gold! AND JEWELS WOOO I’M RICH!”
“Can’t eat gold, and jewels taste bad. I’m going to raid another kitchen!”
“No, you won’t. Stupid humans, we should leave before they realise what is going on. The chaos is starting to lessen.”
Five minutes later, a beastwoman is seen dragging two humans through the streets. The human boy is dragging a trail of sausages behind him while the girl leaves a trail of valuables in her wake. The few other figures out and about all stop and stare at the trio, their lack of green robes immediately painting them as outsiders and intruders.
“Y-you three! Stop right this ins-”
The beastkin’s glare is filled with enough fury to shut the mage up immediately. The small, thorny plants sprouting up from between the cobblestones around the beastwoman’s feet only add to the intimidating aura of anger. “Human, just don’t.”
Each word coming out of her mouth seems to cut the air. The aura of dread is gone the moment one of the figures she is dragging behind her disappears in a black cloud. The still-frozen nature mage can only gape as his purse gets nicked by nimble fingers.
Tess freezes now that she can look around the corner of the building this entire scene played out in front of. “Shit Angy, there’s a lot of people coming this way.”
“Bord, start running on your own. They will not feed your fat ass when they catch you.” Angeta leaves the busily chewing boy behind as she darts after the black streak that just ran past her. Bord dusts off his pants while putting another sausage into his mouth. “What are they…”
He stops as a rumbling sound reaches his ears. His head slowly turns towards the corner as the sound of many footsteps becomes ever more apparent.
Not half a minute later, Bord catches up to his two fellow disciples, an ever-growing horde of plant animals with green-clad riders chasing them. The trio rushes back towards the centre of the town, their rings stuffed with gold, food and rare plants.
“But his name is ‘Drew’, right? Why does he want to be called ‘Teach’ then?” Selis is sitting on a chair while forcefully patting a grumpy rabbit. She is sunbathing as the ship slowly rolls in the wind, chatting to the other sunbathers.
“The word ‘teach’ means to share knowledge. Don’t you noble folks have those types of people?” Ket slowly reels in the fishing line he is trailing behind the boat while glancing at the redheaded siblings.
“Ah, we had tutors. They taught us in exchange for a lot of money. Knowledge is only powerful if it is kept to a select few, you know.”
“Yeah sis, before I went on that… vacation, I remember dad and mom talking about the cost of hiring mister Blanche.”
“They gave that creep money?”
Brother and sister start reminiscing about a past not too long ago. The rest of the people ignore the duo as they keep talking about Teach. Ket turns to Re-Haan while keeping an eye on his fishing line. “Do you know why he insists on being called Teach? It’s a pretty old word that has fallen into disuse.”
“Why would I care what he chooses to call himself? It’s not an earned name, so it does not matter.”
Ket opens his mouth to reply but no words come out. After a while, he speaks: “I have no reply to that.”
“Lola is a pretty weird name too. It doesn’t have any whistling or tone change in it.” Selis holds the rabbit in question up high into the air while swaying her back and forth.
“And Drew is weird too. It sounds really foreign. Does he have more names?” Ket is staring at Re-Haan again, craning his neck to look at the woman standing behind the wheel.
“None of them are ea-”
“Earned, yes. That must be a dragon thing, I am guessing?” Ket cuts her off the moment he realises she isn’t answering his question.
“Only great deeds warrant the giving of a name, giving one frivolously is a sign of an underdeveloped culture.” Re-Haan sneers at the stupid human boy with his stupid and inefficient way of catching fish.
“How advanced could the culture of sleeping lizards be? Have you guys discovered the base principles governing electricity or physics?”
“No, but Teach did. Or his people, at the very least. And he taught them to us. That earns him the name of ‘Teach’ in my book.”
The sound of waves breaking against the hull of the Ascent is very loud in the following minutes.
“I’m bored! Come fishy, let’s check out the other experiments!” Selis jumps up, summoning streams of water around her. A transparent fish flits through the suspended liquid, twirling around the girl as she bounces belowdecks.
Vox and Ares also make their way down the stairs, leaving Ket and Re-Haan alone on deck.
“So, human. A distance between you and your potential mate makes you irritable.”
“So, dragon. A distance between you and your mate makes you-”
“You guys are repeating each other now? I’m gone for a little bit and instead of the nurtured intellectual powerhouses brain cores should be, I see childishness.”
They both freeze, looking at the bearded man that just landed on the deck. “Where is eve… they are below decks. Ah, the mana experiments! Nearly forgot.”
With that, the boy and dragon are alone on the deck again. Ket breaks the silence after a long while. “So, what manner of weather prediction simplification have you found?”
The dragoness arches a single eyebrow. “Dynamic resolution.”
Ket looks at her with an obviously faked dumbfounded expression on his face. “Of course I scale my resolution down when there is little activity.”
“Did you try a system not based on grids?”
“You still go through the entire grid in a single pass?”
“Okay human. Admit that dragons are superior and I might just teach you something about object-oriented nodes.”
Ket looks down, mumbling to himself. He then looks up with a wide grin on his face. “No need, thanks for the tip.” He gives the fishing line a large pull and drops the coiled wire on the deck. He jumps overboard, takes a deep breath and sticks his head underwater while clinging to the side of the boat. Sizzling noises can be heard as the excess heat gets dumped in the salty brine.
“So emitting intent works like that too, hmm. Concepts along with words, interesting. I am a huge stinky poop face.” Re-Haan smiles to herself as she steers the boat.
An entire minute later she realises what she just said. She spends the next hour frantically searching through her own brain space without finding anything at all.
“Hey Teach!” Selis waves at me, a big smile on her face. I nod back and look at what she is doing.
“What are you doing to my experiment. Why are you contaminating it?” I keep my temper in check as the girl keeps poking a teeth-covered fish. “Don’t touch that one Vox.”
Vox retracts his hands from the burning fish. “What is the meaning behind those lines, Teach?”
“They concentrate dark and light mana. The mages here call it dim and bright. I figured out that mana mutations are caused by a mana imbalance.”
“The beast hordes! They will be starting to roam soon, and each one has a few mutants.” Vox stares at the bowls with big eyes.
“So Teach, why does bright mana enhance while dim mana seems to… twist?” Selis is now poking her finger through the floating cloud of organs that is one of my experiments. I slap her hand away and sort through the information I gathered so far.
“Qi brings out potential and enhances functions. I think mana is a lesser form of energy, a smaller set of universal principles condensed into a metaphysical form. Qi enhances what is already there. Mana doesn’t seem to be… complete enough to do so.”
“I don’t get it.” Vox looks down while rubbing his brows.
“That’s insufficient data to extrapolate off of, Teach.” Ket looks at me accusatorily. He just walked downstairs, water dripping from his wet hair.
“Yeah, qi feels bigger than mana.” Ares is looking down while thinking.
“But fishy now uses qi, not mana?” Selis is still staring me directly in the eyes.
I grin at the thoughtful expressions of my students. “Here is your first task as my students: find out the secrets and science behind mana mutants.”
I see none of the enthusiasm I was hoping for. They all stare at the weird-looking fish pensively. I sigh and give in. “The best theories will receive food privileges. I will cook whatever you want. Cooperation is allowed and encouraged, you all know the basics of science. Use those principles and keep track of who does what.”
I internally lament about the fact that my students get a ferocious and zealous gleam in their eyes when I mention the words ‘food privileges’. I walk back up the stairs to the deck while thinking about how to lead horses to water.
I also bring the process I implanted in a certain dragon out of stealth mode and greatly enjoy the obvious aura of anxiousness around the ship’s current captain.